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How to Find the Right Intervention for Your Struggling Learners


At the beginning of the year school districts administer baseline test, reading inventories and other test to gauge where students are academically. As a teacher I can appreciate all of the baseline testing at the beginning of the year because it gives me a general idea of where I should or shouldn’t begin instruction. This is rather easy for me as a veteran teacher who has taught above and below the grade level that I currently teach. Last week I had the opportunity to speak to about 20 educators on Response to Intervention and I was asked the question, “Is there a book that I can buy that will tell me what intervention to use?” My response was your interventions are in the your 1st and 2nd grade teacher’s classrooms.

That question stuck with me because after I delivered this wonderful ( so I thought) presentation about implementing Response to intervention there were more questions. The next day on my way to work I began to think about her question. I decided to use one of the formative assessment ideas that I read about in a book Mathematics Formative Assessment called Sticky Bars.  I teach 3rd grade math to 3 classes so each color represents a class.

sticky bars
sticky bars

I chose this assessment because I wanted to answer 2 questions, do my students know how to solve one step addition word problems and do they know how to solve word problems in multiple choice format. Just like with the baseline data that I get at the beginning of the year I have the information that I needed, so now what? Well based on the quantitative data that I received about 80% of my students can solve one step addition problems in a multiple choice format? When I looked at the graph there were 8 students who are struggling with the basic concept. This is the part that gets very messy for teachers! I had to think to myself I have my data now what intervention do I use to address these these learners? I sat for a moment and realized that this is where many teachers get stuck. When my students need interventions there are steps that I take to find the right intervention for them.
1. I gather the paper’s of the students who did not master the skill and look for any trend or common issue among the students
2. If the skill was taught in context I look for a disconnect in thought process and procedures or if a skill was taught in isolation I look for sub-skills that may be missing.
3. I then have to decide if the problem that the student is having is an on grade level issue or a below grade level issue. If it’s a below grade level skill or concepts I will look at the vertical alignment of the skill in the grade level below to see what the child missed from the previous grade level.
4. After I determine what skills or skills the students may be struggling with, I then look for material to address the skill. This is by far the most difficult part of the process because there is not always a book that will address the problem that the student is having. When I cannot find the material to address the skill I then create the material myself.

my created intervention for rounding

Sometimes finding the right intervention for your struggling learners can be a tedious process but I have found that the process that I use can be done with any subject area. I’ve noticed that many teachers get really overwhelmed when dealing with student reading difficulties. Trying to support a student who has reading difficulties can be overwhelming for the even the most experienced teacher. However, when you are trying to decide where a student is having the most difficulty in reading refer back to the 5 components of reading this will give you categories that you can target for reading intervention. If you are looking for complete lesson plans that target struggling learners and difficult to teach concepts visit my store!

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I help math teachers who teach high need students to effectively manage their classrooms and deliver high quality math instruction. Learn more about me


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